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The Best Amphitheaters in America

For the third in a four-part series on great music venues, Rolling Stone polled 26 insiders and musicians – from top managers to Miranda Lambert – and came up with a list of the nation's coolest outdoor amphitheaters. Read on for our expert panel's picks, and visit our Venues that Rock page for an interactive map and much more.

By Steve Knopper

 

 

 


Voters:
Corin Tucker (Corin Tucker Band, Sleater-Kinney)
Thomas Mars (Phoenix)
Britt Daniel (Spoon)
Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)
Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy)
Miranda Lambert
Talib Kweli
DJ Harvey
Bassnectar
Sharon Osbourne (manager, Ozzy Osbourne)
Scott Rodger (manager, Paul McCartney and Arcade Fire)
Dennis Arfa (agent, Billy Joel, Metallica, Rod Stewart)
Jim Guerinot (manager, Nine Inch Nails and No Doubt)
Tom Windish (agent, numerous indie-rock acts)
Andy Cirzan (promoter, Jam Productions in Chicago)
John Scher (promoter in New York City, manager of Art Garfunkel)
Kelly Curtis (manager, Pearl Jam)
Daniel Glass (head of Glassnote Records)
Michael Rapino (Live Nation)
David T. Viecelli (agent, Arcade Fire, David Byrne/St. Vincent, many others)
Brian Ahern (agent, William Morris Endeavor)
Bob McLynn (manager, Fall Out Boy, Courtney Love, many others)
Bertis Downs (manager, R.E.M.)
Jake Schneider (manager, Bassnectar)
Andrew Cook (manager, Deadmau5)
Rob Light

Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California

CC Image courtesy of MargaretNapler on Flickr

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Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles

Built underneath the Hollywood hills in the early 20th century, the Hollywood Bowl boomed along with the movie business, beginning with orchestras and Porgy and Bess-type productions before Frank Sinatra showed up in 1943. After the Beatles played here in 1964, the starlight-soaked amphitheater became a major rock destination, hosting the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin – and that was just the Sixties. Today, the run of superstar shows continues. "Stars marvel about the experience of playing the Bowl," says Michael Rapino, chief executive of Live Nation, the world’s biggest promoter.

Capacity: 18,000

Website: http://www.hollywoodbowl.com

Fun Fact: After mobs of screaming girls invaded backstage at the height of Beatlemania in 1964, Hollywood Bowl officials provided Brinks trucks so the Fab Four could escape after their two shows here in '65.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colorado

CC Image courtesy of dirkoneill on Flickr

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Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colorado

This dramatic natural venue just outside Denver – named after the two huge boulders that frame its borders – can elevate a good show into a totally unforgettable night. With the exception of Madison Square Garden, no U.S. venue of this size has such an amazing pedigree: The Beatles in 1964, Jimi Hendrix in 1968, Bruce Springsteen in 1978, and so many more. Pearl Jam played Red Rocks exactly once, in 1995, and they still haven't stopped talking about it. "It was just stunning," says guitarist Mike McCready. "We were never able to get there [again]. I don't know why. I want to go back."

Capacity: 9,450

Website: http://www.redrocksonline.com

Fun Fact: The amphitheatre has been officially open since 1941, but the first Red Rocks concerts were actually staged here much earlier – on a temporary platform in 1906.

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